When Andrew posted this absolutely garbage take on this website last week, I knew he was wrong immediately. “Scared to Be Lonely” is the violin-driven EDM-pop banger you didn’t know you definitely didn’t need. That leading violin riff is profoundly lame; frankly, it’s rather telling that a song that sounds like a mashup of “Titanium” and “Baba O’Riley” qualifies as music you can “have sex to” in Andrew’s book. What else? Dua Lipa apes Sia’s mealy-mouthed rasp to far lesser effect. The hook is eminently forgettable, and by the third time it rolls around it’s completely run out of gas. (Seriously, can we please abolish instrumental EDM hooks once and for all? They are a pox.) And the fact that European people have streamed it 300 million times on Spotify is impressive until you remember that Europeans also charge for bread at restaurants. Trump hasn’t ruined everything just yet. So “Scared to Be Lonely” isn’t the song of the summer. We’re all the better for it.
“Cut to the Feeling” won’t be the song of the summer either. But it should be.
Carly Rae Jepsen is everyone’s favorite Canadian pop starlet, and while her latest one-off masterpiece comes to us by virtue of its inclusion in the upcoming animated film Leap!, it’s ostensibly one of a large number of unreleased b-sides from 2015’s excellent Emotion. As evidenced by last year’s similarly great Emotion: Side B, Carly Rae’s b-sides are consistently better than most of her competitors’ top cuts. “Cut to the Feeling,” released by itself without warning, recalls those halcyon days when the only thing blowing up your timeline at 3am on a Saturday was Drake tossing off little bits of canon on his Soundcloud page.
“Cut to the Feeling,” too, feels immediately canonical: it’s a stone-cold perfect pop song, the form flawlessly executed. Like any other Song of the Summer contender, it’s proudly cookie-cutter: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-done. The chorus, her best since “Call Me Maybe,” is a ball of energy, a forceful appeal to drop the bullshit: “I wanna cut through the clouds, break the ceiling / I wanna dance on the roof, you and me alone / I wanna cut to the feeling.” It’s euphoric and absolutely massive; it’s also impossibly catchy.
Delightfully, the song’s structure mimics its content: the verses are almost comically short, and the first chorus hits just 30 seconds in, as if to say, we all know what we’re here for. And while the chorus is the anchor here, the rest of the song feels just as immediate, just as urgent. “A chemical reaction, take me in your arms / and make me ahhh,” she sings straightforwardly at the end of the second verse. Cut to the feeling indeed. And in the bridge, if you hadn’t got the point yet, she underlines her desire—“Take me to emotion, I want to go all the way”—dropping the wannas of the chorus for the biting staccato of want to, a hand clap tweet set to music.
Jepsen is, next to Lorde, the best pop artist working today, and “Cut to the Feeling” is the best pure pop song at least since “Sorry.” It’s one of the best songs of the year so far, period.
So then why won’t “Cut to the Feeling” be the song of the summer?
The song of the summer has to be able to be ubiquitous, and to achieve ubiquity, it must, to a certain extent, be able to fade into the background. You have to be able to ignore it while you focus on refilling your solo cup. “Cut to the Feeling” burns too bright to be ignored. It’s three minutes of raw emotions, and when it’s on, it demands attention. There’s no helping it.
So the summer will belong to another Canadian—one Mr. J. Bieber, the most consistent hit-maker currently working—either with the exceptionally replayable “Despacito,” a Luis Fonsi song also featuring a resurrected Daddy Yankee that’s destined to have drunk white people saying vaguely racist things like “burrito burrito” all summer, or with DJ Khaled’s effervescent posse cut “I’m the One,” which has Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne spitting joyous bars over some innocuous tropical plunks.
There’s nothing wrong with either of these songs. I like them both a lot, and they both serve a very specific purpose. And there are other contenders that may still emerge.
But sometime this summer you’ll be at a party, a few Coronas deep, low key sunburn going strong. You’ll have heard “Despacito” eleven times already that day. You won’t be expecting it, but someone will slip “Cut to the Feeling” into the mix. You’ll stop and you’ll listen.
It’ll be a different sort of feeling.